A week or two ago I described how my father made sure nurses and aides checked on my mom frequently. He did it by placing a huge sack of candy in her room, free to anyone who wandered by, somewhat like corn scattered at a deer stand. It worked as if her room had been enchanted by elves.

When I spoke to my mom last night, she told me that the latest bag of chocolate bars had been depleted, and that my father had decided against bringing another giant candy lure. She also reported that almost no one came by the room anymore unless they needed to shove something down her throat, stick something into her arm, or wake her up in the early hours to take her vitals and generally fiddle around with stuff. The courtesy calls have ended.

My friends, bribery works miracles.

I think that a Rolex watch is a foolish thing to own, so I guess it says something that I own one. In my defense, I didn’t buy it. Some nice people gave it to me as a gesture of appreciation. But now I own it, and I have to figure out the proper way to use it. I can’t bring myself to slap the thing on every morning and wear it to the gas station and Tom Thumb and the donut shop. That seems massively ostentatious, right? But I don’t want to wait until that date where I try to seduce some exotic, European babe and assume that flashing the Rolex at the critical moment will clinch the deal.

Over time I’ve figured out that the only way I can use my Rolex is to distract people while in the process of intimidating them. I know that sounds stupid as hell. It sounds stupid as hell to me. In fact, I was shocked and a little horrified when I discovered that my Rolex can be used in this manner. But it seems to work.

I have to be wearing my intimidation suit to properly employ the Rolex. If I’m wearing jeans and my Hoops and YoYo t-shirt, intimidation is pretty much out of the question. But I will put the intimidation suit on when I anticipate I’ll need to intimidate someone. It works equally well on surly mechanics and corporate executives. This also sounds stupid, I know. But it works as well as an alligator chained to my wrist. My intimidation suit is a non-flashy gray suit, light gray shirt, and plain tie running from light gray at the top to black at the bottom, plus some expensive Italian shoes. Who the hell knows why this works? I do know that a pop of color, like a Jerry Garcia tie, makes you seem human. And if you wear all black, then people think you’re from a bad gangster TV show and ignore you. Maybe this gray get-up says, “I’m not trying to make an impression on you, so you’d better be impressed by the fact that I’m not fucking around.” I just have no idea.

This morning I put on my intimidation suit and my Rolex. My mom broke her femur a month ago. Her femur, like the rest of her, is 75 years old. It broke kind of like a handful of dry spaghetti. So her past month has been hospital, surgery, hospital, rehabilitation center, nursing facility, home like a god damn moron, same hospital, different nursing facility. The place she’s at now is far nicer than most of the places I’ve lived. It has a phalanx of nurses, hot and cold running physical therapy, breakfast areas, reading nooks, wireless internet, a hair salon, and a damned player piano in the lobby. My mom of course refers to it as a “place of horrors.”

Despite the grandeur of the amenities, I had some insurance questions to ask on my mom’s behalf. I needed the answers pretty quickly. I was there last Thursday, so I went to the receptionist and said, “Hi, who can answer some insurance questions for me?” She said that the Business Director was out, but she’d pass on a message and the Business Director would call me back. No sweat. As the receptionist bent over the message book, revealing her Brown #7 dyed hair pulled into a bun tighter than my rectum, I began spelling out my name for her. She broke in, “There is no need to spell it. I am an excellent speller.”

Well, my name has often been mangled, but what the heck. It looked like she was getting it right, and we were all friendly. Hell, the piano was playing Rachmaninoff in the background, so who could get upset? She proceeded to explain how to properly underline the small “C” in my last name, evidently assuming that I needed help writing my own name. She began to remind me of my worst English teachers crushed together into a size 16 rectangle with arms and a head bolted on. But, I was being nice, so I thanked her and left.

Yes, I received no call that day.

I called back the next day, and I again spoke to Frankenstein’s English Teacher. I asked for the Business Director, and she told me that said person was on vacation that day. This was the second day of my efforts, and I was being nice. I politely asked whether anyone else in the building knew enough about insurance to help me. She told me, in an equally polite tone, that she’d pass the message on to someone else in the office.

You guessed it, no call that day. I called in the afternoon, and Frankenstein’s English Teacher told me that everyone was in the staff meeting, but she’d pass on the message. An hour later I called back, and Frankenstein’s English Teacher told me everyone had gone home, and that no one from the Business Office would be there on the weekend, but they’d be back Monday and she’d pass on the message. I refrained from saying that clearly no one from the Business Office was there on business days either.

Clearly I needed to change tactics. I needed the intimidation suit.

This morning at 9:00 am I was standing at the reception desk, clad in the intimidation suit and sporting my Rolex. In my most business-like, cordial, and “you should in no way consider me your friend” manner, I asked for the Business Director. Frankenstein’s English Teacher looked at me with doubt and asked who I was. This is common when wearing the intimidation suit. People think you’re there to audit them, or sue them, or maybe give them an unpleasant medical examination.  I explained who I was, and she relaxed, telling me that everyone was in the staff meeting. It would end at 9:30 and she’d pass my message on to the Business Director. I said that would be fine, and I thanked her in the tone that a lion would use to thank a wildebeest for wandering around on the veldt.

You may wonder why I wasn’t yet actively intimidating, or maybe screaming and throwing things. That’s a great question. I’ll answer it in a moment.

By 10:00 am I had received no phone call from the Business Director. I asked my mom to excuse me, and I walked to the reception desk. I picked up speed as I got closer, so that by the time I arrived my Italian shoes sounded like Joe Frazier punching the heavy bag. I interrupted Frankenstein’s English Teacher in the middle of whatever bullshit she was doing and said in a crushed gravel voice, “I’d like to speak to the Business Director.”

She said, “Oh, she’s on the phone dealing with a resident issue right now, but I did pass on the message.”

This was the most delicate time in the intimidation process. I had to handle it just right. I had to show that I’d had enough of this shit and wasn’t going to put up with any more. But I also had to show that I was not out of control in any way, so that if I possessed the means to hurt them I would have no problem employing those means with dispassion and efficiency. But most of all, I had to make it evident to them that THEY HAD DONE WRONG.

I leaned on the desk, subtly flashing my Rolex, and raised my voice somewhere between speaking and shouting. I said, “I do not intend to wait for her. I’ve been put off since last Thursday, and I am not happy about it!”

I know that sounds weak. But consider that I was leaning forward and looming above her, I had pulled a moderately furious expression, and my tone of voice sounded the way a shark must sound when its eyes roll back. It was important that I speak no words that were improper in any way, while I put serious threat into my body language and tone.

Frankenstein’s English Teacher’s eyes flicked to my Rolex. I swear they did. She sure as hell didn’t want to look me in the eye, because I was mad and she knew I was mad for a good reason. And if she wasn’t looking at my eyes, she had to look somewhere, and my watch was the sparkliest thing around.

She began explaining and apologizing at the same time. I turned my back to her as she was babbling and stalked away to a chair across the lobby. I sat in the chair, pulled out my phone to check messages, and pretended that she didn’t exist.

Forty-five seconds later she scurried over to me and said the Business Director would be with me in just a minute. Thirty seconds after that she invited me into the back office to meet with the Business Director. As she did so, I smiled at her and thanked her with all the sincerity in my being.

What the fuck? Why did I do that?

I was walking the fine line of intimidation. When people are doing wrong, and they know it, that’s when I have to give them negative feedback. If they don’t know they’re doing wrong, raising my voice and so forth will do no good. But once they start doing what they should do (such as finally letting me speak to the god damn Business Director), that’s when I need to give them positive feedback. Then they’ll want to start doing the things I want them to do.

Is it sneaky? You bet. We’re talking about intimidation here, not the three-legged race with your sweetie on Fourth of July.

The Business Director was a harried young woman sharing a tiny office with two other people. I immediately felt sorry for her. Then I metaphorically slapped myself around and focused on intimidating her. Apparently Frankenstein’s English Teacher had started the job by telling her about me—she looked terrified of me already. So I gave her a business-like smile that promised to smash her into splinters if she disappointed me, and I shook her hand. As we shook, she addressed me by something that was absolutely not my name. This thing and my name didn’t even have any letters in common. I corrected her, and she said that Frankenstein’s English Teacher must have written it down wrong.

“Really? I’m surprised since she’s such an excellent speller,” I said. I couldn’t resist, and the Business Director tried a smile that made her look as if her husband had just bought an emu farm.

Over the next five minutes she answered all my insurance questions. With each answer I became more polite and understanding. By the end of the conversation I had my answers, and we were both smiling and relaxed. I saw her about to stand and get me the hell out of her minuscule space, so I said, “Just a moment. I have a couple of other questions.” I swear to God, she glanced at my watch. Is it an expensive watch? Or is it a cheap knock-off of an expensive watch? As if it matters one damned bit.

I asked her who to talk to about food. I asked who was in charge of medication. I asked about therapy, diet, and transportation. Over the next couple of hours I talked to all of those folks, and I was as nice to them as I could possibly be. They had never done anything wrong by me. They were doing exactly what I wanted—they were talking to me and giving me answers. But I got the sense that they all expected to see me coming. By afternoon, I suspect the people running that facility knew I had been there.

So, this was all great. I got to intimidate, and I got to flash my watch. It was a fantastic distraction from the fact that I didn’t accomplish a fucking thing this morning. My mom’s hardly eaten in a month, she only gets out of bed when threatened, she’s not much stronger now than she was just after her surgery, and the whiny twit doesn’t want to do a damned thing to help herself if it causes her the least discomfort. The doctors and therapists are on the edge of giving up on her. I can intimidate answers out of people all day, and I still won’t have the answer to that problem.